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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks With Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa After Their Meeting


Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Mexico City, Mexico
March 23, 2010

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FOREIGN MINISTER ESPINOSA: (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. And let me begin by thanking the Foreign Secretary and the Government of Mexico for hosting these very important discussions today. We have had the opportunity to delve into many areas of common concern that lie at the heart of the Merida Initiative and our shared responsibility to combat and defeat organized transnational crime. We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation in the weeks and months ahead. We will be seeing President Calderon later today because the United States strongly supports his courageous campaign against violent criminal organizations on behalf of the Mexican people. And we honor the service and sacrifice of Mexico’s men and women in uniform in the military and in the police forces.

The relationship between our two nations is so comprehensive and complex and deep and broad. It is not bound by borders or bureaucratic divisions. And what we are focused on today is a part of that relationship, but a truly significant part. We are working in our two governments together to solve the problem posed by the criminal cartels that stalk the streets of your cities and ours, that kill and injure innocent people, and spread a reign of terror and intimidation, and use the trafficking of drugs to addict people, the trafficking of persons to degrade them, and who are truly an insult and a rebuke to the common values that our two nations share.

It’s an honor to be joined here in Mexico by a very significant delegation from the Obama Administration. Defense Secretary Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler, Acting Administrator of the DEA Michele Leonhart, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets in the Treasury Department Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske, Ambassador Pascual, and a wide range of senior officials, all of whom are committed to this unique partnership that we are exhibiting today.

Our broad engagement allows us to come at these problems from many different angles, to devise cross-cutting solutions, to ensure that our two governments are working hand-in-hand, not just at the ministerial level but all the way down our bureaucracies.

We are expanding the Merida Initiative beyond what it was traditionally considered to be, because it is not just about security. Yes, that is paramount, but it is also about institution building. It is about reaching out to and including communities and civil society, and working together to spur social and economic development.

We have watched with great grief the terrible tragedies and murders that have taken place here in Mexico, and then our hearts were broken by the murders in Juarez, which took the lives of three people connected to our Consulate. They were but the latest horrible reminder of how much we have to do together and how crucial these meetings are to align the work of our two countries to combat the threat of this transnational criminal syndicate of networks. And we thank all of you for your sympathy. The men and women of our mission here in Mexico have been so heartened by the support and the prayers that the people of Mexico have conveyed to them. We are working with the Government of Mexico to do everything possible to bring those killers and all killers to justice. And Madam Secretary, I want to thank you personally for your support and sympathy in the wake of that tragedy. Your visit to Juarez meant so much to our people in the Consulate there.

The grim truth is that these murders are part of a much larger cycle of violence and crime that has impacted communities on both sides of the border, taking an especially grievous toll on families here in Mexico. The narcotics cartels are waging war on civil society. This violence shreds communities, it holds back economic development, and it undermines progress. So yes, we accept our share of the responsibility. As I said when I first came here a year ago, I think standing right here on this stage, the United States is your partner and your supporter. We know that the demand for drugs drives much of this illicit trade, that guns purchased in the United States – as we saw some of the examples outside – are used to facilitate violence here in Mexico. And the United States must and is doing its part to help you and us meet those challenges.

Our partnership is so important because, as part of our continuing consultations, we are learning from each other. We are exploring different approaches. We are working to determine what is the best way forward. We’ve discussed new tools that we can use. But at the end of the day, it is not about discussions or meetings; it is about results. And that’s what our two presidents are focused on. They want real results that translate into greater security and improved opportunity for our citizens.

So today, we agreed on a specific path forward. We are designing concrete and specific work plans, complete with tasks, timetables, and measurements in four strategic areas: disrupting the capacity of the criminal organizations, reforming and strengthening security and justice institutions, creating a 21st century border that advances citizen safety and commerce, and building stronger, more resilient communities that can resist the influence of the cartels.

We also agreed to launch key initiatives, including pilot programs to combat border violence in Tijuana-San Diego, and Juarez-El Paso. We have enhanced the exchange of financial intelligence and law enforcement coordination to detect and prevent financial crimes and the financing of these cartels. And we have a bilateral work program to combat the flow of illegal weapons. Today, Secretary Napolitano signed two agreements on behalf of the United States Government to strengthen border and aviation security and to expand our cooperation against the drug cartels.

All of these of these efforts build on our ongoing assistance through the Merida Initiative. We are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to train and equip Mexican law enforcement and strengthening Mexico’s judicial system and democratic institutions. President Obama has asked Congress for $5.6 billion to reduce the demand for drugs in our own country. And we are working not only government-to-government but civil society-to-civil society and people-to-people.

The meeting we held today is the product of hard work on both sides. And it’s a process launched by President Obama and President Calderon in August 2009. Secretary Espionza and I met in New York in September 2009 to set forth this new strategic framework. Our teams have met three times since then to develop the programs we reviewed today. This new framework will continue to guide us as we move forward, and it will ensure that our efforts are balanced and effective.

Mexico and the United States are connected by the busiest border in the world. We’re very proud of that. And we’re very proud of the many connections we have back and forth across that border. We’re establishing a new vision for how we manage that common border to make sure our security and our commercial interests go hand-in-hand. Our families and communities are linked by bonds of commerce and culture, by history and values, by family. And so our common aspirations that we share for a peaceful and prosperous future begin with securing the safety and security of our citizens. So again, let me thank you, Madam Secretary, for your leadership and your hospitality today.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary, on behalf of the U.S. networks. I’d like to ask you a question about – both of you – about the expansion of the social economic piece. Is this a realization that the military strategy was not enough or wasn’t working? And what do you think this new emphasis on social economic aspects will do that the military was not able to do? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Elise, it’s actually a recognition that we want and are working toward a comprehensive strategy. Security is key. People cannot feel safe going to work or going to school or going to a party. But in order to combat the long-term effects that are posed by the drug cartels, we know we’ve got to work more on education and health.

If I could get a bottle of water – is there water down there? Thank you. Excuse me. I’ve been talking too much. It’s always amazing to me that when we do anything up here besides talk, there are a million cameras. I’ll give you another chance. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: She talks; she drinks. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are very committed to the economic development of Mexico. And we know that the Mexican Government and the Mexican people have been working so hard growing their economy, weathering these incredible challenges of the last year and coming out the other side. And we want to make sure that when we talk about security, it’s not just security in the most obvious sense, to be safe in your home, but it’s economic security, it’s health security, it’s all of the ways that individuals have a chance to lead a productive and successful life.

It’s also good for the United States. The stronger Mexico is, the more economically developed Mexico is, the more people that Mexico is seeing rise through education ranks, the better it is for all of us. So it is a commitment of ours that we think is very much a part of this overall comprehensive strategy.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (In Spanish.)

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: We discussed the first two issues that you mentioned, in some detail. The United States had our leading officials who deal with the enforcement of our drug laws, the enforcement of our gun laws, report about what we are doing. We are very aggressively enforcing the laws against illegal guns. We know that the flow of illegal guns is a problem for our Mexican friends, and we’re doing all that we can within our laws to try to prevent, interdict, arrest, prosecute, and jail those who deal in these illegal guns.

With respect to medical marijuana, the federal government continues to enforce our federal laws against the use of marijuana. And we heard a report today about how our federal government is enforcing those laws where there is any evidence that the use of the medical marijuana is not tightly controlled and contained for those people to whom it is a medical – it’s a medical substance. But we have not changed our laws and we do not see this as a major contributor to the continuing flow of marijuana, the vast, vast majority of which is used for recreational purposes.

But as Secretary Espinosa said, we’re going to be doing a joint study about drug consumption. We want to make sure we understand everything that is going on in both of our countries. We also know that one of the terrible activities of the drug cartels is to try to addict people in the countries that they operate in and they transit through, and we want to try to provide whatever assistance we can to Mexico as you begin to deal with your own drug problem here.

Extradition is an important part of our whole law enforcement strategy. We have obviously spoken at length with the Mexican Government about how we can cooperate in prosecutions, how we can be more effective in prosecutions. We have conducted several operations inside the United States, going after the Mexican cartel members who live and work in the United States, going after their financing sources, and we will continue to do that. And we have a very positive relationship between our law enforcement officials.

And finally, we are looking at everything that can work. I mean, our goal in this intensive consultation we’re engaged in is to see what works and pursue it and what doesn’t work and improve it. Our Secretary of Defense and our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had lengthy meetings with your military leaders, and they were very complimentary about what the military is doing. Obviously, our military has lessons to learn. Everybody does. I mean, we’ve learned a lot of lessons in the last decade. And part of what we’re trying to do in the military-to-military discussion is to share those lessons with the Mexican military because it is not what militaries train to do. And it is something that takes an adjustment in working with police authorities and municipal authorities. So I think that our observation is that we want to do everything we can to make whatever the Mexican Government decides is the best way to proceed as effective as it can be.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (In Spanish.)

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretaries, I’d like to return to the issue of demand, if you will let me. I’m wondering if you could talk anything about if we have any way forward on reducing huge domestic demand. Do we know what works there? And if we don’t, how are we going to resolve this issue?

And Madam Secretary, you spoke about looking at anything that works in this problem. I’m wondering, has there been any discussion of decriminalizing drug as one strategy for undercutting the power of the cartels. If you could both address that, that would be great. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No to the second.

To the first, I don’t see Gil, who – where’s Gil? Oh, there you are, right in front of me, Gil. The Obama Administration’s new drug policy is going to be released very soon. And it will include specific recommendations about how to decrease demand. Gil gave us a short summary of that, and I think it’s fair to say that with the level of resources that President Obama put into the budget, it is a high priority for us. We know how hard it is. I mean, I think we’ve lived long enough to know that this is not easily done, but we’ve learned a lot of lessons and we’re going to try to apply those lessons. And we’ll – I’m sure Gil would be happy to talk with you, Andy, further about some of the specifics, except it’s embargoed, I guess, right? Yeah, it’s embargoed. So we’ll get to you, though, as soon as we’re free to tell you specifically.

It was supposed to actually be released today and Gil wasn’t going to be able to come with us today. But because we got the healthcare bill through, the President decided to sign it today, so we – that was what was taking the attention in Washington. And we think this is such an important issue that it’s going to be released and highlighted very soon.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, human rights is a core value and is a high priority in our discussions. Every meeting we have includes an emphasis on human rights because we know, both of our governments, how important this is. And we know that in a violent situation like the one created by the drug cartels, it is necessary to work even harder to protect and promote human rights. And when you deal with people who engage in beheading, who murder children who won a football game, who are total non-respecters of life and human rights, you have to work extra hard to maintain human rights, to maintain the rule of law. We understand that. And the Mexican Government and the United States Government are deeply involved in programs that promote and protect human rights.

President Obama is committed to immigration reform. In fact, he had a meeting at the White House about a week or so ago to discuss the way forward. He has said we will take it up and I am absolutely sure that the President will promote it. The Congress has to make the final decision. You saw how long it took with healthcare. The President never gave up, but it took awhile to get the Congress to go along with the important legislation.

Similarly, comprehensive immigration reform is a high priority of the Obama Administration. I can’t predict what the Congress will do, but I can tell you that the President is committed to pursuing it.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPIONZA: (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.



PRN: 2010/T26-5



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